Register to Vote in the United States

Each state and territory has its own regulations, but in most cases the process is fairly easy. Most people can either register online, or mail in a simple, one-size-fits-all form. Read this wikiHow to learn how.

10 Second Summary

1. Look up the deadline. More ↓
2. Check your eligibility.
3. Register online if you can.
4. Look for alternatives if you can't register online.
5. Wait to receive your voter's card in the mail.


Registering to Vote

  1. Look up the deadline. Many states set a deadline for registrations by mail or online, which you can look up here. However, many states allow you to vote even if the registration deadline has passed, or allow you to register in person at the county office at any time.[1] You can always show up to the polls and cast a provisional ballot, even if you don't think your registration went through.
    • In most states, the mail-in deadline is based on the postmark (the date you brought it to the post office).
  2. Check your eligibility. In order to register to vote in the United States, you must:[2]
    • Be a US citizen
    • Be at least 18 years old by election day. 16- and 17- year olds may be able to register early or even vote in primary elections, depending on state law and party rules.[3][4]
    • Intend to live in the state long-term. Some states require you to have lived in the state for the past 30 days.[5]
    • Meet state criminal record requirements. Many convicted felons incorrectly assume they cannot vote, but only three states remove voting rights permanently for all felons. Look up your state law for details.[6]
  3. Register online if you can. As of June 2016, 31 states and the District of Columbia allow residents to register to vote online.[7] Check this table for a link to your state's registration website, if available.
    • In most cases, you will need a valid driver's license or state ID card for the state you are registering in, or the last four digits of your social security number.[8]
    • Even if your state does not have online registration, you may be able to register online using a third-party organization such as Rock the Vote.
    • Some U.S. non-state territories have their own registration websites not listed on the chart. Search for your territory's election committee website.
  4. Look for alternatives. If you cannot register online or do not wish to, try one of the methods below instead:
    • Anyone can register in person. This is required if you live in Wyoming or New Hampshire, or in the territories of American Samoa, Puerto Rico, Guam, or the U.S. Virgin Islands and wish to vote in person.[9][10] You can also contact your local election office in these areas and request an absentee ballot so you can vote by mail.
    • Uniformed service members and US citizens living abroad can register using the Federal Postcard Application (FPCA).
    • In North Dakota, no registration is needed. Just bring an ID to the polls on Election Day.[11]
    • Anyone who does not fall into one of the exceptions above can register by mail. Continue to the next step for instructions.
  5. Mail in your National Mail Voter Registration form. Download this form in the language you read best. Print it out and use it as follows:[12]
    • Use the Application Instructions to fill out the Voter Registration Application.
    • Look up your state in the State Instructions section for additional information, and to find the mailing address for your state.
    • Mail the application section to the mailing address listed for your state, with correct postage, or deliver it in person to your local election office.
  6. Register in person at designated locations in your state. Anyone eligible to vote can register in person at the following public facilities with the same information:
    • Your state's voter registration office
    • Election offices
    • The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) (in most states)
    • Armed Service recruitment centers
    • Public assistance facilities, such as a SNAP benefits center
    • State-funded disability centers
  7. Fill out the Federal Postcard Application (FPCA) to vote absentee. If you're active-duty military or are overseas for other reasons during the election and you're not yet registered, you can still register to vote by filling out the FPCA form and requesting an absentee ballot.[13] Fill out this form to register if you're:
    • Active-duty military or a dependent
    • A member of the Merchant Marine Service
    • A member of the Public Health Service
    • Commissioned corps of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
    • A US citizen living overseas (temporarily or permanently)
  8. Consider stating a party preference. In most states, voters have the option to register with a party affiliation. To find out whether this affects how you can vote, look up your state in the national registration form.
    • This only affects primary elections, in which a political party elects a candidate to run in the general election. In many states, you must declare a party affiliation in advance to participate in that party's primary.

After Registering

  1. Wait to receive your voter's card in the mail. You should receive a voter's card in the mail shortly after you send your paperwork or submit the online application. This should come with an address for your polling place, and a sample ballot describing the candidates and issues you will vote on.
    • You will not need a registration card to vote in most states. It's still handy to have, because it will tell you where to go to vote.
  2. Contact the local elections office for specific questions. If you have minority language needs or special concerns due to a disability, contact your local elections office for information about voting equipment, materials in a specific language, details on accessing the polling location, or any other questions you may have before the big day.[14]
  3. Remember your ID. Some states require you to bring a photo ID to the polls every time you vote.[15] If you registered using the national form, in any state or territory, you must show proof of identification the first time you vote. This can include a current photo ID or a bill, bank statement, paycheck, or government document that shows your name and address.
  4. Update your information when it changes. You only need to register again if you change your address or name, or if you would like to switch political party affiliation. In most states, you can change this information online or by filling out a new national form. If you have any questions, contact your local election office.
    • If you recently moved, allow enough time to Get-Your-Driver's-License-in-the-USA or other ID. The address and name on your ID must match the information in your registration.
    • If you are temporarily in another state or abroad, even for a long-term stay, you can vote in your old precinct without registering again. Absentee-Vote and mail it in before the deadline.


  • Your party affiliation and votes cast are part of the public record. Anyone can look them up, although it may or may not be easy depending on your county and state. Some states allow you to remove your address from these records through a "safe at home" program if you are at risk of abuse, stalking, or retaliation for providing abortion services.[16]


  • Use the words "No party" if you do not want to register with a political party. Do not use "independent," as this may register you with a party called the "Independent Party."
  • Members of the military have a "home of record," which is the address they lived in when they enlisted. Do not confuse this with your voting residence. If you live in a different state than your home of record, you should register in that state.[17]

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